Hundreds of Calgary marchers gathered Thursday evening in Marda Loop to support strong gay-straight alliances in Alberta schools.
Amelia Newbert used a megaphone to decry the United Conservative Party’s education plan that could see educators report to parents their children’s involvement in GSAs.
Newbert reminded the crowd that most gender and sexually diverse students do not have a single adult in their life who they’re able to talk to about identity.
“So, what is their lifeline? Their peers. And where are their peers? They’re in GSAs at school,” said Newbert.
The UCP’s education plan rolls back protections made in Bill 24, which prevented schools from telling parents that their children had joined a GSA.
Myles Nahal, who shared his personal story at the march, says GSAs saved his life.
“Without it, I can strongly say I probably would not have finished high school and would definitely not be in university. So GSA’s definitely have helped me become the person I am today.”
He added it is never the job of a parent or educator to out a student.
“Only we know when it is safe to come out,” he said.
Andrew Clapperton says it’s critical that children can feel confident that they’re speaking to teachers who won’t out them.
“I’m a parent. I’m a teacher. And I’m a gay man. So, it’s an issue that strikes me right in the heart.”
Clapperton said he hopes UCP candidates will reconsider their party’s position.
“This is an issue about the safety of our kids, but it’s also an issue about the integrity of the party that you’re voting for. Do you really want to be involved in a party that has this view that human rights are something that can be taken away? And I would say, ‘No.’”
Greg Clark, MLA and Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow, attended the rally and said he’s frustrated.
“In the Alberta Party, we know it is absolutely possible to build pipelines, create jobs, balance a budget and respect LGBTQ2+ rights, it’s not an either-or proposition.”
The UCP’s Doug Schweitzer didn’t participate in the march, which concluded in front of his office. He released a statement on Twitter stating: “I am committed, alongside my colleagues, to ensuring that Alberta has the strongest legal protection for gay-straight alliances in Canada. We will continue to listen to Albertans and act in the best interests of all our children.”
He also wrote that all major political parties “categorically reject mandatory notification of parents.” While rolled back legislation doesn’t require parental notification, it doesn’t stop educators from informing parents of their children’s involvement.
Editor: Rayane Sabbagh | firstname.lastname@example.org